There are commonly two sought-after degrees in Commerce: The Bachelor of Business Science (BBusSc) and the more common choice, the Bachelor of Commerce (BCom). Most universities also offer a range of Doctoral, Masters, Honours and Postgraduate Diploma programmes.
4/5-year degree, Honours level degree
Common available majors include:
- Actuarial Science Programme: Actuarial Science and Quantitative Finance
- Management Studies Programme: Finance (Non CA option), Finance (CA option), Computer Science, Information Systems, Economics, Law, Marketing, Organisational Psychology, Quantitative Management
The Bachelor of Business Science (BBusSc) qualification is very similar to the more common BCom, but differs as it incorporates study in management theory. A Bachelor of Business Science focuses on both the selected major and management theory. Also, the Bachelor of Business Science allows for majors in a number of quantitative-based (numbers) disciplines, where most BCom programmes do not.
As is the case with most degrees, the first year of a Bachelor of Business Science comprises introductory courses to relevant subjects, and is virtually the same for all majors. Owing to this, it is easy to change majors in the first (and even second) year of a Bachelor of Business Science, making the choice of major on application forms almost irrelevant.
Bachelor of Business Science: Student Opinions
Pieter Strydom, 4th year BBusSci Finance & Accounting Student
“If you don’t mind an extra year of study, what is great about the BBusScI is that it allows you to gain a better business background than a BCom. A BBusSci degree includes more business-orientated subjects such as marketing and business law. In an increasingly competitive job market, a BBusSci might just give you an edge over the more traditional BCom qualification.”
Jason Basel, 4th year BBusSci Finance Student
The BBusSci degree is perhaps the most prestigious Honours level degree in commerce available in South Africa. As such, I would generally encourage school-leavers to do a BBusSci over a BCom, as it would be more highly regarded than a BCom. Also note that because the BBusSci is a full 4 years of study, you graduate at the end of the 4 years with an Honours degree, not just a Bachelors. The BCom is a 3 year degree, after which you graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. A further 1 year of study will garner you your BCom (Honours), making the total time for an Honours in commerce 4 years, irrespective of whether you do a BCom or BBusSci. However, because the BBusSci is a straight 4 years, it is easier to structure than a 3 year Bachelor’s followed by a 1 year Honour’s, so you get the benefit of a more structured Honour’s degree (which translates to more courses and better specialisation in your chosen major). However, if you are not certain as to whether you want to go all the way to an Honour’s level degree, it is certainly more efficient to do a BCom, as with the BBusSci you are locked into a full 4 years of study- if you decide after 3 years that you do not want to carry on to Honours, you cannot simply leave and claim your Bachelor’s! In other words, you must be prepared to study the whole way to Honour’s, or risk leaving university with no qualification. With the BCom, you graduate at the end of your third year, so there is some flexibility as to whether you want to continue to Honours or not. And you will be able to leave with a scroll in hand. Also something I have noted is that it is far more practical to do a BCom if you are looking to become a Chartered Accountant or Actuary. My reason for this is that once you are qualified as a CA or Actuary, no one is concerned with how you got it. If you obtained the qualification through a BBusSci, you will have had to endure one extra year of study than those who obtained theirs through a BCom, and yet at the end both come out as CA’s etc. Thus, if you are looking to become a CA, and are certain you will go through the full term of study to get this qualification, I suggest doing a BCom and saving yourself a year. Do not fall prey to the alluring prestige the BBusSci holds, as this will only hinder you in the long term.
James Kieser, 3rd Year BBusSci (Finance) Student:
The Bachelor of Business Science, Finance Non-CA in my case, has been an amazing degree so far! It is beautifully structured, it provides insight in to a wide variety of commerce subjects besides just your major and allows for a lot flexibility between the Majors. For instance, I started out studying Business Science Organisational Psychology as I had no clue as to what I wanted to study after High School. Psychology was an amazing subject but by the end of my 1st year I realised it wasn’t for me so I looked into the other Majors. I ended up trying Marketing but again didn’t really enjoy it so at the end of my second year I changed to Finance which I am now loving! Now in my 3rd year of study, I was able to change my Major twice without having to carry anything and I’m still on par to finish by the end of next year! This is because in Business Science, the first two years of study are very similar, give or take a few courses, which allowed me to take my Major without carrying any subjects. So if you know you are interested in Commerce but you have no idea as to the specifics then Business Science is the way for you! Besides its flexibility, it is such a highly recognised degree within South Africa and it has been an amazing degree so far!
Natasha Coppin, 4th year BBusSci Marketing
I chose this degree because I wanted to study something business related but that would also suit my personality.
The highlight would be the entire learning experience, being rounded not only academically, but as an individual. The range of courses are also interesting with Marketing as they include Maths, Economics and a variety of marketing courses such as e-Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).
The lowlight would probably that the workload is quite heavy and there is very little social time during the semester.
The ideal student for this degree would be one that is dedicated, and optimistic.
My timetable is rather busy – the days are roughly from 8 till 3:45 , but it differs over the semesters. I do have free periods sometimes, but most of the time I use them to do some work.
Katherine Wolk, 4th year BBusSci Finance & Accounting Student
Studying at UCT has been an eye opening experience, coming from a grade that had a total of 20 people to sitting in a class with 200 is quite different! But I have enjoyed every day at UCT. While my degree has been challenging I’ve honestly enjoyed learning even if it is accounting. The standard at UCT is tough but companies around the country know this and seek out UCT students for this very reason. So don’t get despondent when your grades aren’t as good as you hoped for.
Eric Archer, 4th year BBusSci Economics
I have had a bit of an interesting degree experience. First and second year were quite relaxed and a smooth transition from matric. From third year though it was tough figuring out which path I wanted to take, ecos or finance. Once I had decided to switch though it was relatively straightforward and an easy process. Now in fourth year the difficulty level has definitely picked up but I am coping well with it… Mainly due to my natural ability to repel stress.
Gillian Couperthwaite, 4th year BBusSci Economics
The work sometimes gets overwhelming but the people make it worthwhile. I learnt a lot in terms of content but I think the soft skills I gained were far more important – finding a balance of learning varsity stuff and learning time management, people skills etc. is vital.
Emmeline de Chazal, 4th year BBusSci Finance (Non-CA)
After five years of studying, I fully understand the meaning of perseverance. Regardless of degree choice, adapting to university life itself can be a steep step. For me, Business Science has been both challenging and rewarding. I have learnt that lectures are worthwhile, tutorials are useful and studying for tests is kind of necessary. It’s near impossible to be bigger than the course and with every stumble, I found help in the form of friends and tutors. This has made conquering the hurdles all the more satisfying.
Aedrea-Anne McClure, 4th year BBusSci Economics
I started studying a business science degree in the finance chartered accounting stream. Sort of knew from my very first accounting tutorial that it wasn’t for me. Wish I’d listened to my gut sooner and saved myself a lot of pain; needless to say I’m not studying accounting anymore. University’s an interesting place and a good one to find yourself; don’t be afraid of diving into new things and trying it all out, you never know what you’ll discover. Study something that interests you; you’ll never love everything about every degree but studying something for purely monetary reasons will backfire; at least that’s what I’ve discovered. If you do what you love, you’ll be good at it and the money and opportunities will follow. If you don’t love what you do, those who do will get the jobs and you’ll be left high and dry.